Trinity President Patricia McGuire received the distinguished 2012 Henry Paley Award today from NAICU – the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. This award recognizes one individual each year who exemplifies an outstanding commitment to students, faculty and higher education. President McGuire was honored for her accomplishments in making Trinity a model of private, nonprofit higher education serving a public purpose, and for her service as a tireless and effective voice of American colleges and universities in the federal public policy arena. Read the complete citation.
“Pat McGuire is an icon of higher education leadership,” said NAICU President David L. Warren as he presented the award to her.
Herb Tillery, executive director of the College Success Foundation–District of Columbia, gave the introductory remarks in tribute of President McGuire. The College Success Foundation-D.C. is an important Trinity partner, providing scholarships and academic support to hundreds of D.C. students from Wards 7 and 8, including many students who attend Trinity. Tillery said, “Pat McGuire is one of the most brilliant minds in this city! She is a thought leader in the areas of education, poverty, social justice, economics and many other fields….She has become an innovator in serving low-income, first-generation students and has helped many other educational leaders rethink and refine their approach to this most vital part of our college-going community….Her leadership in higher education has left our nation richer for the lives that have been changed and the dreams that have been realized as a result of her work.” Read his complete remarks.
He was joined at the podium by Trinity senior and CSF-DC Achiever Scholar Tommesha Scott, who spoke movingly of President McGuire’s commitment to making education accessible and her advocacy of students, and how, on more than one occasion, President McGuire provided her with encouragement and support.
In her acceptance remarks, President McGuire called upon her “brother and sister presidents” to make higher education accessible and “show courage” in removing the barriers to education. She said, “We have such a rare privilege — the power to transform lives through higher education. We also are among the few of this world with the gifts of eloquence and large capacity for communication. We must use these gifts more effectively, not simply in defense of our institutions, but truly on behalf of those who need our powerful voices so mightily, especially our current and future students. We need to come out from behind the ermine and velvet curtains of academic politesse to raise our voices more urgently on the critical issues of this momentous time in human history, exemplifying leadership for those values we all proclaim in various ways our mission statements: honor, justice, equity, freedom.
“Few issues are more serious for the long-term health of our society than the widening gap between rich and poor in this nation, as it also has been around the globe. The wealth gap is an abyss along and across which our students stand arrayed, with their families and communities and neighborhoods stretching far behind them to the horizons we cannot imagine. Those on the side of wealth and privilege are diminishing while we see the great surge of those on the side of economic stress and financial fear. We can and we must be the loudest voices and most aggressive advocates on their behalf in a society that, in too many places, still does not comprehend the full meaning of equal opportunity and real educational justice.
“Every human person has a right to be educated to the greatest extent possible. Education is the best hope this nation has to narrow the wealth gap and restore economic security for all. Surely, the wealthiest nation in the history of the earth can protect this right with economic and public policies that make funding for education the highest priority. We appreciate and applaud President Obama’s leadership on this issue.
“Equally surely, every college and university in this room — some very wealthy, some very constrained — can find it in ourselves to open the doors a little wider, to welcome more students we might never have imagined before on the hallowed hallways of Old Main. We can surely show more courage in blowing past the old barriers to access: so, for example, our magazine rankings might slip a few notches if, instead of emphasizing selectivity rates (how many students we keep out), we promote higher Pell Grant recipient rates (how many low income students we serve). Tuition and cost are actually within our power to control, if we have the willpower to do so. We could call out rating agencies that exalt ever-higher tuition rates and ever-lower discount rates while penalizing institutions that serve larger proportions of low income students of color.
“Every human person has a right to an education that opens intellect and imagination to the potential for those wild, risky, radical ideas never expressed before. Protecting this right is the whole point of academic freedom. The essential freedom of liberal learning is the distinguishing characteristic of higher learning versus the lower grades.” Read her complete remarks.
The awards luncheon was part of NAICU’s Annual Meeting, the nation’s largest single meeting of higher education presidents from the private, nonprofit sector. With more than 1,000 members nationwide, NAICU serves as the unified national voice of private, nonprofit higher education in the United States.